Annulments in California

Religious Annulment vs. Court Annulment

It is important to note that a civil (or legal or court) annulment is different than a religious annulment. While civil annulments are granted by the court and recognized legally, a religious annulment is granted by a church (or religious institution) to which you belong. Obtaining a religious annulment does not legally void your marriage, though.

Both court and religious annulments allow you the freedom to remarry (legally or within your religious institution). To obtain a religious annulment, you should consult with your religious leaders or church. In this article, we will be discussing the ground and filing process for a legal annulment.

The Difference Between a Divorce & an Annulment

Even though they are often used interchangeably, annulments and divorces are the same legal process. While both result in the end of a marriage, annulments nullify and void your marriage (i.e. making it seem as if the marriage never happened). Annulments and divorces are also different in that:

  • Annulments seek to dissolve a marriage because of issues concerning the formation of the marriage, rather than issues that arise during the marriage.
  • You can file for divorce at any time (as long as you meet the residency requirement), but you have a deadline to file for an annulment. We will discuss this in detail later.
  • Annulments declare that a marriage is not valid, while divorces end legally a valid marriage.

Grounds for an Annulment

For a judge to grant an annulment, the filing party will need to provide evidence that one or more of the legal grounds (or reasons) for an annulment existed at the time of the marriage. A marriage is not considered valid if the married couple is related by blood (as this is an incestuous relationship).

Under California Family Code § 2210, the courts can also nullify or void a marriage if one of the following conditions existed at the time of the union.

  • Either party was not of sound mind (because they have a mental condition or were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol).
  • Either party was forced (via threats of violence, blackmail, etc.) to consent to the union. (However, if the forced party freely lives with the other party as spouses, this condition does not apply.)
  • Either party was defrauded when they consented to the marriage (unless the person learns of the fraud and/or the facts constituting the fraud and freely lives with the other party as their spouse).
  • Either party has incurable impotence (and cannot and has not consummated the marriage).
  • Either party is still legally married to someone else (i.e bigamy).
  • One spouse was under 18 years old and did not obtain consent from the court or their parents before getting married.

Annulments & Obligations Concerning Children

If you obtain an annulment and have children together, you will need to ask the court to establish paternity for any children you have with the other party. Once parentage has been established, you can ask the court to make a determination as it relates to child custody (or visitation) and child support.

Can You Receive Alimony If You Get an Annulment?

When you annul your marriage and claim your marriage is not legally valid, you are also absolving your legal rights and duties concerning alimony and community property laws. You will not receive help from the court when it comes to dividing property or debts you acquired during your marriage, and you will not be able to file for or receive spousal support or survivorship benefits (i.e. inheritance, retirement benefits, etc.) from the other party.

However, an exception can be made if you are given putative spouse status (see California Family Code § 2254). Putative spouses may have the right to receive alimony, community property, other property-related benefits. To be given this status, you will need to prove that you had “good faith belief” that your marriage was legally valid. You should consult with a reliable attorney as it can be hard to substantiate this claim and be deemed a putative spouse.

How to Get an Annulment

Filing to obtain an annulment is very similar to filing for a divorce. There is no residency requirement for an annulment, though. The filing process involves the following steps:

  • Completing the needed court forms (i.e. Form FL-100, FL-110, and/or FL-105).
  • Drafting a written declaration that explains why you are asking for an annulment and the grounds for your annulment.
  • Reviewing your declaration and forms with an experienced annulment attorney.
  • Making copies of your paperwork.
  • Submitting your paperwork to your court clerk (and paying the filing fee).
  • Serving your partner with the court papers (i.e. copies of the papers you filed with the court, a blank response form, and/or a black Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act form). Please note: you cannot serve your spouse yourself; you will need to ask or hire someone 18 years of age or older to serve your partner, such as a friend, relative, county sheriff, or process server.
  • Filing a proof of service form, proving to the court that your partner received the paperwork.
  • Waiting for your spouse to file a response (within 30 days of being served).
  • Asking for a court hearing to appear in front of a judge. During your hearing, you will be able to provide proof for the grounds under which you filed, and the other party can oppose the annulment.

Before you begin the process, you should consult with and/or retain a reliable attorney. They can help you:

  • Prepare and complete your court paperwork
  • Be advised of the impending legal process
  • Set up and prepare for a court hearing
  • Determine how to handle case issues, including but not limited to child support, child custody, the division of property, and your spouse’s failure to respond to being served

You must file for an annulment within a specific time because there is a legal deadline (also known as a statute of limitations) for filing. The deadline varies based on the reason under which you are filing. You can file for an annulment on the grounds of an unsound mind or bigamy any time before the death of the involved parties (California Family Code § 2211). You must file for an annulment within 4 years of getting married if you are filing on the grounds of:

  • Force.
  • Physical incapacity (i.e. impotence or inability to have a sexual relationship).
  • Fraud. In this case, you must file within 4 years of discovering the fraud (not within 4 years of getting married)
  • Age. In this case, you must file within four years of turning 18 years old unless a parent or guardian is filing on your behalf while you are still under age 18.

Contact Our Firm Today

At The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc., our attorneys have over two decades of combined experience in family law matters. Our you retain our firm (or one of our attorneys), we can help you file for or respond to an annulment. We are known for:

  • Providing our clients with high-quality, individualized counsel
  • Responding to all client communication promptly
  • Being aggressive advocates for our clients
  • Keeping our clients up to date concerning the progress of the case
  • Being dedicated to excellence

Schedule a case consultation online today or call (949) 577-7935 to learn more about how we can help you.